Learn How to Increase RAM for Better Computer Performance Right Now

how to increase ram

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Do you struggle with a slow computer? Do you need more power for heavy programs or games? Learning how to increase RAM will get you there.

I remember when one gigabyte (GB) of RAM was more than enough. And I remember how soon that was no longer the case. That was when I first decided to learn how to increase RAM myself. While it seemed a bit scary at first, I found that it was easy, and I’ve kept my computers fast this way ever since.

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Most computers let you upgrade their memory capacity. It’s not just a way to achieve high performance -- it also helps you get more use out of aging computers, helping to keep them up to date.

Upgrading doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Keep reading to learn how to increase RAM on your computer.

What Is RAM?

RAM stick

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Random access memory (RAM for short) is among the most crucial elements of computer performance. RAM plays a key role in how fast your computer is and what software it can run. That's why knowing how to increase RAM is so useful.


RAM is the working memory that temporarily holds data for whatever your computer is currently working on. This eases the load on the processor and speeds up data transfers. Without sufficient RAM, your computer becomes slow and prone to crashing.

What RAM Should You Get?

laptop RAM

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Like other computer components, RAM comes in a variety of formats and differs in both power and compatibility. Determining what you need is often the hardest part of increasing RAM. Therefore, it’s best to get an understanding of what sets different RAM modules apart.

Types of RAM


ddr3

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First of all, laptops don’t use the same type of RAM inserts as stationary computers. Desktops typically use DIMM modules, which have a long, rectangular shape. For laptops, you need smaller SODIMM ones.


Furthermore, RAM itself has many uses and formats beyond the ones we’re handling here. One example in computers is VRAM, or video RAM, which refers to your graphics card’s memory. Another term for it is GDDR. It’s important to distinguish between the two when you learn how to increase RAM.


The proper term for the form of RAM you’re looking to upgrade is SDRAM. It’s an upgraded type of DRAM, which is what computers use to have. More specifically, DDR SDRAM is what modern computers use.


Moreover, there are a few different versions of DDR SDRAM. Let’s look closer at them.


DDR2 has been around since 2003, but it isn’t very common these days. If you’re looking to increase RAM on a really old computer to relive some childhood games, this is probably the kind you want.


DDR3 came about in 2007 and still sees a fair amount of use. It’s faster and stronger than its predecessor.

DDR4 takes performance to even higher levels. It hit the markets in 2014 and is the modern standard.

Each generation has a higher bandwidth and thus a higher operating rate than the one before. They’re NOT interchangeable, and each computer only takes one type. They even differ in physical shape and won’t fit in the wrong system. For desktops, the most important consideration when upgrading RAM is what type your motherboard is compatible with.

DDR5 SDRAM may appear in late 2019 at the earliest. Although it may offer speeds up to twice as fast, it won’t be a widely used option anytime soon.

Specifications and varieties


Even RAM modules of the same type and generation can vary in performance. When you go shopping to increase RAM on your computer, you should pay attention to the specifications of each promising component. The two key factors here are speed and latency.


RAM speed refers to the total relative speed of a module. Common examples are DDR4 2400 and DDR4 3200, with the latter being the faster one.


Latency or timing is how long it takes for a RAM module to access its memory storage. You’ll find this figure as a sequence of four numbers, such as 5-5-5-15. Lower numbers mean faster operation.


Some computer motherboards only support RAM up to a certain speed limit. Therefore, you’ll want to see what this limit is and whether you can raise it with a BIOS update before you try to increase RAM. Otherwise, you may end up with incompatible components.


Higher speeds and lower latencies bump up the price significantly. Unless you want to maximize your computer’s performance, they don’t make a huge difference.


However, it’s important that you get ones that match. The voltage, timing, and CAS latency must be the same across all your DIMMs. To some extent, you can adjust this manually in the BIOS menu, but you may find it difficult. Also, this means adjusting the stronger ones to match the weakest.


Modules with different speed ratings can work together if the other specifications match. However, they will all sync to the slowest one, which means it’s a waste of money to install a faster DIMM among slow ones.

Minimum requirements


Next, let’s determine the real number you should aim to surpass. There are a few steps to this.


First of all, you’ll want to look at whichever games and other software you want to run. What are their official requirements, and what do people recommend?


Please remember that you’ll need even more if you want to run more programs at once. For example, if you’re going to edit heavy files while streaming audio or video in your browser. Or perhaps you want to live stream or record and edit your gaming sessions. This takes a lot of RAM.


As a rule of thumb, more is better. That is, as long as you don’t get much more than you need.

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Eight GB of RAM is our recommended minimum for a typical computer. If you’re a gamer, 12 to 16 GB should be plenty. For video editing, music production, and photoshopping, it’s best to get as much as you can. Sixteen GB should be enough for all normal purposes, but big projects and 3D editing may call for more.


If you’re wondering how to increase RAM for a general speed boost without overdoing it, all it takes to determine the required amount is to open the task manager. On a Windows system, you access it by pressing Control, Shift, and Escape simultaneously.


In your task manager, you’ll find a performance tab. Under this tab, there will be readings and graphs showing you how much RAM your computer’s using. You can also see how many SDRAM slots are in use and how many are free.

Last but not least, computer memory modules work in pairs. You need an even number of them, and it’s best if a pair consists of identical ones.

Maximum capacity


So, you know the minimum you need, but what’s the most you can achieve? This is an essential aspect of how to increase RAM, and it differs between computers in a few ways.


First, there’s a limit to how much RAM your motherboard can handle. There are only a few sockets for RAM modules and a maximum speed limit for your motherboard. You can get a better motherboard if necessary, but be careful -- other components in your computer, such as your processor, may not be compatible with a new motherboard. Make sure to do your research.


Next, there are the limitations of your operating system. For example, old 32-bit versions of Windows have a maximum RAM limit of 4 GB.


64-bit systems reach higher, with Windows 7 capping at 8 or 16 GB depending on the edition, and Windows 10 Home reaching up to 128 gigabytes. While other versions of the latter can go up to an incredible two terabytes, that’s far beyond what any ordinary computer needs or allows.


Before you continue learning how to increase RAM, you should figure out the necessary details about your computer. What motherboard does it have, and what are its limits? How many DIMM slots are open and what are your existing modules? What operating system do you run?

There are free tools that help you with this. Speccy is one such program.

How to Increase RAM on a Desktop

desktop

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Let’s begin by looking at how to increase RAM on stationary computers, as those are both easier and more suitable for upgrades. In most cases, all you’ll need is an ordinary Phillips-head screwdriver.


One additional thing that’s helpful is an anti-static grounding wrist strap. These nifty bracelets help prevent accidental shocks. Since static electricity discharges can damage your computer components, this is a strong recommendation.

Preparing the computer


First of all, you must unplug your computer. Then, you’ll want to move it to a suitable desk or table. Pick a spot that’s clean, dry, and ideally cool. Also, avoid carpets and rugs, since they will contribute to static electricity.


Next, unscrew the screws that hold the access panel of your PC and place them somewhere where you won’t lose them. The access panel is usually the left side of the casing. On some computers, you have to remove the whole cover.


Before we get into the main task of how to increase RAM on a desktop PC, it’s wise to ground yourself for a moment to release static energy from your body. You can do this by touching the grounding element of a wall socket, a metal sink, or wall radiator. Anything that’s conductive and extends into the ground should work.

Accessing the RAM slots


Now, you’re ready to reach inside your PC. Let’s look at how to increase RAM manually from here.


If you’re unfamiliar with computers and their components, you first need to identify and locate the RAM sockets. The big circuit board is the motherboard, to which all components connect. Its main processor, or CPU, is the big module with fans. You’ll find the DIMM slots near it.


Look for a row of long sockets. There’s usually four of them. Typically, two of these hold thin rectangular modules that stand out perpendicular from the motherboard. These are your DDR DIMMs.


If you want to replace the existing RAM modules with better ones, look for the little tabs that hold them in place in either end. If you press them down all the way, the DIMMs should pop out, and you can remove them safely.

Installing the RAM modules


Now, you’re ready to reach inside your PC. Let’s look at how to increase RAM manually from here.


If you’re unfamiliar with computers and their components, you first need to identify and locate the RAM sockets. The big circuit board is the motherboard, to which all components connect. Its main processor, or CPU, is the big module with fans. You’ll find the DIMM slots near it.


Look for a row of long sockets. There’s usually four of them. Typically, two of these hold thin rectangular modules that stand out perpendicular from the motherboard. These are your DDR DIMMs.


If you want to replace the existing RAM modules with better ones, look for the little tabs that hold them in place in either end. If you press them down all the way, the DIMMs should pop out, and you can remove them safely.

Finishing up


Before you put the access panel back, you should start your computer up and check if everything’s working correctly.


You can see the RAM status in your BIOS. If it doesn’t show up when you boot up the computer, you can access it by pressing the right F-number key during startup. The exact key differs between machines. If you use Windows 10, you can also go to "settings," browse to the "system" page, and view the "about" tab.


If the reading displays less memory than it should, something’s wrong. There can be a few different explanations to this.


First, you should check whether all RAM modules attached correctly. If one is loose, lock it in properly. If they all seem fully seated, look if there’s any dust or dirt on the connectors. Remember to unplug your computer first and be careful about static electricity.


If this doesn’t fix your problem, you should double check that you got compatible modules that don’t exceed your computer’s maximum capacity. If you’re certain that it’s right, but it still doesn’t work, you may have a defective module.


Before you conclude that something’s broken, there are a few more things to try.

Once everything’s up and running, you can attach the access panel again and enjoy your boosted performance. Now you know how to increase RAM on a desktop PC.

How to Increase RAM on a Laptop

laptop

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Laptops are a different beast when it comes to how to increase RAM. While some laptops have an access panel that allows for fairly easy upgrades, this isn’t the norm.


In many cases, you must take your laptop apart to add RAM. Furthermore, some laptops won’t let you change components at all. These models have the RAM soldered to the motherboard. Ultra-portable laptops almost always have this design.


Which type you have may not be evident. Therefore, it’s best to consult your computer’s user manual or Google it to find out.

Preparing the computer


It’s easier if you learn where the SODIMMs are on your laptop before you start opening it. This way, you may not have to disassemble the whole thing. Bigger laptops often have specific access pads for this reason. However, small ones don’t.


Either way, it’s helpful to know how to reach the modules. On some models, you remove the keyboard. Others have you remove the whole bottom. Sometimes the SODIMMs are right behind an access panel. Once again, your user manual is helpful.


Before you open up your laptop, you’ll want to unplug it and remove the battery. Then, you set it on a suitable table or desk. Avoid rugs and carpeted rooms, since they’ll cause static electricity which can damage your computer.


Next, unscrew the screws and remove anything that’s in the way. Now, you’re ready to get to the most crucial element of how to increase RAM on a laptop.

Accessing the RAM slots


Even if you know where to find the memory modules, you’re dealing with a very cramped space. Furthermore, laptop memory doesn’t look like the ordinary DIMMs you may be familiar with.

ram

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Before you reach into your laptop, you should release any static electricity in your body. You can do this by touching a conductive metal object other than your computer. This helps avoid damaging shocks to the circuitry. You can also use an anti-static wrist band for extra safety.


Once you have access to the RAM modules, look for the plastic clips that hold it in place. Push or pull them apart to release the SODIMM. It’ll often pop out diagonally. Next, grab it by the edge and gently pull it out. Avoid touching the golden connectors.

Installing the RAM modules


Now for the most literal aspect of how to increase RAM on laptops. Once you have a free slot, you can start installing the new module. If you just removed one, remember its orientation and the angle at which it came out. That makes it easier to get your new SODIMM in the right way.


The module should go in with the gold connectors first. Don’t try to force it in. If it doesn’t click into place, try a different angle. You’ll know when it’s right because the plastic clips will click into place to hold it still.


Now, you can put everything back in place. Then it’s time to start your computer and check the results.

Finishing up


This step of how to increase RAM is the same for laptops and desktops. You can check the system information or go to your BIOS screen on startup to check how much RAM is available. If something’s wrong, you’ll find troubleshooting instructions under the desktop section.

Ready to Upgrade Your RAM?

Now you know how to increase RAM for better computer performance. While there are many steps, it’s a pretty easy process. And after the upgrade, you’ll be so happy that you figured out how to increase RAM and went through with it.


Thanks for reading. Enjoy your improved computer performance!


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